Being a top AdSense expert, I inevitably get many emails from publishers who have gotten their AdSense account suspended and then I get the sob story about how they won’t be able to pay their mortgage, they will have to let all their employees, etc etc. Trust me, I have heard it all! But regardless of their AdSense account being suspended, the real reason of their immediate money issues is the fact that they had all their eggs in one basket… in this case the AdSense basket. The same can go for someone who is working one killer affiliate program that suddenly ceases to exist one day, and is left with no viable alternative option to slip into the deceased affiliate program’s place.
The same applies for those that have their one killer website… their pride and joy, but unfortunately the one that brings in 95% of all their income. If you are old school SEO enough, you will remember that many people found themselves in this position when the now-infamous Florida update hit in November 16th, 2003. When Google updated their algorithm (which wasn’t done in a continuous style back then like it is now) that day, the forums lit up with people whose websites literally stopped getting any Google traffic overnight. And with the huge Google share even back then meant that people who were living the good life with their Google rankings suddenly found themselves scrambling in panic-mode to not only restore their rankings but to also restore the sudden loss of income, whether AdSense, affiliate income, or other.
So if you are one of those who has most of your eggs precariously balanced in a single basket, here is what you can do to diversify a bit so that you won’t have to go into panic-mode when disaster strikes your bottom line, and why you should do it.
If you have only one big-money website…
Get additional websites pronto! This doesn’t mean you have to build from scratch and baby it along before it gets ranking. Consider buying a website as an investment that is several years old but has been neglected by the current owner. If you don’t have one in mind, consider searching for your best keywords and see what (legitimate) site ranks somewhere around 100, and bonus points if it hasn’t been monetized by AdSense before… yes, believe it or not, sites like this exist. Do a search at archive.org to make sure there aren’t any surprises lurking in the site’s history, then make a reasonable offer. Once you own it, make the site SEO-friendly, update it to be current, throw on your choice of advertising, nurture it with some new links (although do not nurture it with links from your other site, you want it to be completely separate in case disaster does strike). Then let it flourish in the serps.
You can also add features that will increase your repeat visitor base, so if your rankings do drop, you will have repeat visitors to sustain your site. The easiest way to do this is to have a (good) blog and push RSS subscribers, although there are other features (although more time consuming) that you can offer visitors to keep them coming back, such as forums and online events like webcasts and podcasts.
Give your site periodic health checks. Check links, work on building your brand, and be proactive to prevent any ranking issues.
Lastly, have a PPC campaign ready to go that you can increase the spend on to make up the lost traffic. Having campaigns either set up or ready-to-upload means that you can take the time to research keywords, create your ad creative and build a strong and high-converting landing page when you aren’t stressed and in panic mode. You can even set a small budget to ensure your campaign is optimized with the best converting keywords, ad copy and landing page, so you know that if you need to suddenly ramp up your PPC ad spend to cover a significant organic traffic shortfall, that you won’t have to focus significant time over the immediate day or two to do it on-the-fly.
If you only use AdSense…
First, if possible (ie. if you are US based and get approved) get a YPN account as backup. That way, if your AdSense account is suspended, you already have a YPN account ready to go that you can swap into place.
Start selling advertising placements directly to advertisers, rather than simply monetizing through AdSense. Not sure how to do this? Read Best practices for soliciting direct buy advertisers to your website or blog. Added bonus, if your site gets tanked in Google, you can sustain revenue with direct buy advertisements done on a monthly basis, since it is not (immediately) directly tied to your page views. This will give you time to deal with the ranking issues, because AdSense income is directly tied to the amount of traffic and clicks.
If you are in a niche market, look into any advertising programs that are similar to AdSense but specifically for your niche. Not all niches have something available, but if there is one, apply for it so you have it available as a backup or even test it in an additional ad unit space in the meantime.
Investigate other advertising networks, such as in-line advertising (ala Vibrant Media) or interstitials. They definitely can annoy some visitors, but if it is a last-ditch attempt to monetize so you can pay the bills, go for it. So know your choices and options incase you do need it.
If you have a big money affiliate program…
If you have that one affiliate program that generates the majority of your income, make a point of researching alternatives, and make it a habit to research once a week, or at least every other week. Affiliate programs tend to come and go, and if you are making $X,XXX per month pushing Product XYZ, you want to have a backup to push Product XYZ through another network or to push Competitors Version of XYZ in its place. That way if the company ceases its affiliate program, or you are booted for any reason, you won’t have much of a loss in income.
And don’t forget to research all the various affiliate networks, don’t restrict yourself to just the big networks. Of course, if you are dealing with an unknown network, do a bit of research to confirm that they are paying their affiliates on a timely manner, before you switch to them, or ask those you trust in the industry for their impressions of the company you are considering.
And if you find a good replacement affiliate program, sign up for it immediately. Some companies have extremely quick turnaround for their applications while some are much more selective in their criteria on who they accept, so you could wait a couple weeks before you get your approval, which could result in a couple weeks worth of lost income if something happens to your old program. And if you do this, you can send a small amount of traffic to the new program to check their conversions as well as their payment process… you could even find in your testing that the replacement program ends up doing better than your current one!
Even if you do have all your eggs in a single basket, if you are prepared you can avoid the panic mode if you do have your research done and you follow the steps above. Moral of the story? Diversify! And following the above steps can help you do just this, so you can minimize your revenue loss when disaster strikes… think of it not as if but when.